I finished my sister-in-law’s Passover Hat in plenty of time to block it, wrap it and hand it over when we visited them yesterday. That left me with idle hands. “What do I really need?”, I asked myself, and the answer was tray cloths. I like a crocheted tray cloth for serving cups of tea and the like, and for years I’ve bought them from a chain of mill shops in this area that sold bedlinen, towels and table linen. They are cotton, inexpensive and hardwearing enough to stand up to machine washing and the occasional bleaching to remove tea and coffee stains. But after a few years they fall apart, and that time has come around again. This is the rag that one of the current batch has become.
Unfortunately, the linens company that supplied these tray cloths has now gone out of business. Earlier in the year I looked into knitting a replacement in linen, but I wasn’t happy with the effect. So when I found myself with idle hands last week, I decided to bite the crochet bullet and have a go at a tray cloth. The peak crocheting phase of my life was between the ages of about 10 and 12 when I and my friends used to knit or crochet in the breaks between lessons, and usually what we crocheted was granny squares and variations on that theme. Then as the hippy vibe of the early 1970s passed on, crocheted ponchos, rugs and cushion covers fell out of favour and knitting took over. Since then, I’ve crocheted very little, just the occasional trim around the edge of a knitted garment’s neckline or hem, unless you count an attempt at supersized crocheting the Christmas before last.
I toyed with the idea of trying to copy the old tray cloths for all of two minutes before concluding that I needed to start my crocheting renaissance with something simpler, like a granny square. It’s over 40 years since I last crocheted properly and I needed to watch a few YouTube videos to remind myself of the stitches. (Note to self and anyone else in this situation: make sure you are watching instructions based on either US or UK crochet terms, whichever you are more familiar with, or you will totally confuse yourself.)
Now, for me a granny square needs to be worked in several colours to bring out its true glory. I had a dig in my stash cupboard and found some cotton yarn that I acquired quarter of a century ago from a widower who wanted rid of his late wife’s crochet materials and had heard that I was a needlecrafty sort of person. I accepted them gladly, knowing that I would return to crocheting some day. That day has come.
Amongst the collection of cottons I found two shades of green and a yellow which I thought would work together well. But how to make a cloth that’s rectangular? YouTube was my friend again and I discovered that’s it’s perfectly possible to make a granny rectangle of whatever ratio of sides you want, but I opted instead for a two by three group of six small granny squares surrounded by a few rounds worked outside of that array. This arrangement involves more sewing together than I would have liked, but it is more visually interesting, I think.
Here’s where I’m at after a few evenings of work.
I had no idea what size hook to use, but after a little experimenting I settled on the smallest of my “large” hooks, a 2.5mm. (I also have lots of incredibly small stainless steel hooks that my grandmother used to crochet complex tablecloths from sewing thread. This granny never made a granny square in her life and would not have countenanced working in anything as thick as the Lyscordet No.5 I’m using, which is a 3-ply / light fingering in knitting terms.) My tension took a while to settle down because the cotton yarn is quite slippery. The first granny square was noticeably looser than the next one. I should have practised with some other yarn first, but hey, the whole tray cloth is really a practice piece. If I get something usable out of it, it will be a bonus.
I am enjoying crocheting after such a long lay-off. There are practical benefits over knitting, such as it’s more portable, easy to put down at any point and equally easy to pick up and see immediately where you’re at in the pattern. And it grows relatively rapidly, albeit it at the expense of using rather a lot of yarn. I’d like to make a second tray cloth to match this one, but I doubt I’ll have enough of these colours.